How will you Carpe Diem?

Your journey through South America will take you from the vibrant, modern city of Quito, to the lush Amazonian rainforest, and even the ancient Incan site of Machu Picchu. Along the way, you’ll dive into Spanish language study with local teachers while exploring diverse cultures and histories—and build meaningful relationships with welcoming host families, partner organizations, and your fellow group members.

Participate in projects such as environmental conservation in the Amazon rainforest, organic farming near the Ecuadorian coast, and help herd llamas in Peru’s sacred valley. See why people from afar flock to uncover the best-kept secrets of Ecuador and Peru and pave your own educational path on Carpe Diem’s three-month South America gap semester.


Explore the impact of tourism on indigenous communities in Peru while studying Spanish with local teachers and living with welcoming host families.

Experience traditional, rural Ecuadorian life in the cloud forest while learning about the political issues affecting local communities and the impacts of resource extraction.

Learn about the impact of the global economy on family farmers: compare and contrast small-scale organic farming with farming for export in two coastal communities in Ecuador.



Program Details

Accepting Applications For:
Fall 2019

FALL 2019
September 11 – December 4*
February 12 – May 4*

A maximum of 12 Students &
2 Overseas Educators

Ages 17 and Up


Learn more about:
College Credit
Financial Aid



Latitudes Year



My Carpe Diem semester in South America challenged my assumptions about the world and challenged me in a new way at every turn. I am so thankful I'll be going to college and into the rest of my life with the lessons of this semester.

- Claire, Ecuador & Peru Fall '17

Carpe Diem leads the willing participant to a world of opportunities, to a world that loves, a world that is full of surprises just waiting to be explored. Go forth and live in the moment, take the risk, take the road least traveled by, and surprise yourself!

- Matthew, Ecuador & Peru Fall '17

I was really locked into the neverending path of the classic education system in our society. I was stressed out, burned out, borderline depressed, and losing passion for something so incredible, valuable, and important in our life: education. I am so glad that I got to experience education through experience; my perspective has widened greatly. My knowledge of the environment has exponentially grown. I have developed irreplaceable travel skills and confidence. My Spanish has improved unbelievably. My communication skills and commitment to the present is much greater from my disconnection to stimulation through technology, alcohol, or drugs. Going on the path less traveled was worth every moment. I can return to a university with a renewed passion, a refreshed spirit and mind, and greater perspective for personal values and wants out of life which will help me greatly in my future decisions. Why wait to see the world, learn a language, and live?

- Lauren, Ecuador & Peru Fall '17

I implore you to be a sponge and soak up every second of a Carpe Diem semester. There is not a second in time that I was on this trip and did not feel so incredibly thankful for where I was. This South America program allows students to delve into the culture in which we are so privileged to be apart of—largely by staying in homestays. This allows the students to have a better understanding of truly what goes on in the community that you are staying with. This program's diversity in landscape is something that is incredible. In a span of three weeks, we went from the coast of Ecuador to the Amazon Rainforest, and then the Andes Mountains. This jam-packed semester constantly has you learning things that further your global consciousness. I most certainly have a much better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.

- Chris, Ecuador & Peru Fall '17

I highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to learn more about themselves and how the world works. If you keep an open mind and ear, you can learn more from these three months than you can in a year in a classroom. Go out, learn, experience new cultures, and make connections that will last you for your whole life!

- Renee, Ecuador & Peru Fall '17

Carpe Diem goes deep: from the start of the trip, I was impressed with how mature the students were and how eager everyone was to be their authentic selves. Our Overseas Educators held high expectations for us in terms of being open, pushing ourselves, and connecting to the local communities we lived with. We got to experience all sorts of lifestyles throughout the trip, and had plenty of balance between working as volunteers, learning from teachers and locals, challenging ourselves, and just relaxing and soaking up the sun! My Carpe Diem group is my family. I wasn't expecting to have such powerful relationships with the other students and my OEs—this semester has been such a gift!

- Brianna, Ecuador & Peru Spring '17

Seize Your Journey

The first three days of your semester will be spend in a comfy backpacker hostel in Quito. Explore UNESCO cultural sites in the old city and taste your first bites of South America cuisine while learning more about the program and your fellow group mates. You’ll learn also learn strategies for staying safe and healthy while traveling.
Ecuadorian coast

Traveling to the coast of Ecuador, the group will live on a small banana farm, learning about coastal agriculture while studying Spanish.

Baños, Ecuador

In Baños you’ll live with a host family, spend the mornings studying Spanish, and the afternoons volunteering with an after-school program. Participate in activities like traditional cooking or salsa classes and take a dip in the local hot springs, for which the town is named.

Peguche, Ecuador

In Peguche, you’ll again live with host families, and spend the week studying Spanish and learning about indigenous arts and music. Visit the famous crafts market in nearby Otavalo and start prepping for your trek to Machu Picchu with hikes through the surrounding countryside.

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Navigate the narrow cobblestone streets, canals, and spectacular Incan ruins of the beautiful small town of Ollantaytambo. Spend a week living with host families and continuing your study of Spanish.

Cloud forest

Spend a week in a small town in the Intag region of Ecuador, where you’ll learn the principles of sustainable farming and living, as well as the impact of mining and resources extraction on this fragile and biodiverse environment.

Ecuadorian coast

Learn about Permaculture, sustainable living, and small town economics in a coastal Ecuadorian community. We’ll spend time working on a small farm, learn about local cooking, natural building, and coffee growing. We’ll also visit other farmers and craftspeople in the area—and take a day to visit the local beach for a swim.

The group will have a unique opportunity to design, plan, budget, and implement their own itinerary together. Examples of past student directed travel adventures include exploring Arequipa and Colca Canyon, hiking the stunning Rainbow Rocks outside of Cusco, and visiting the salt flats and hot springs in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
Amazon rainforest

Travel to a small community in the Amazon and partner with a local NGO working on rainforest conservation. Our work might include helping with reforestation projects, erosion control, or river turtle conservation, while learning about ways to live sustainably in this uniquely beautiful and remote environment.

Visit a small, indigenous community in Peru’s Sacred Valley where you’ll help with potato planting, llama herding, and community gardening. Live with local families and experience rural life in Peru.
Machu Picchu Trek

For the grand finale of our semester, the group will spend five days trekking through the remote villages and breathtaking landscapes of the Sacred Valley; summiting the mountain passes of the Andes to the phenomenal ancient Incan City. Return to Cuzco after the trek to celebrate all the successes of the semester before returning to the US.

Enjoy some downtime to reflect and integrate all that we’ve learned from each other, our travels, and the communities we’ve been a part of. This retreat, led by a Peruvian yogi in the Sacred Valley, is an opportunity to try yoga and meditation, and give some attention to our bodies, minds, and spirits.

The Student Experience

Explore the following links to learn about the Carpe Diem South America student experience.